- Life in the 1700s -
- The War for Independence -
- Submerged History -
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HOW did we come up with this idea ?The answer to that question could be much longer, but we will try to simplify it.
FIRST: We like movies. We like to watch movies together. We enjoy sharing a common experience, even if it is only for an hour and a half. We like to see different places with nice scenery. We like to hear different types of music. We enjoy learning together.
SECOND: It is now easier to make movies than it has ever been before. Cameras have become more affordable and even the very inexpensive digital camcorders provide excellent quality. Editing has also become relatively easy thanks to computer technology, and DVDs were (until recently) the perfect medium by which to distribute movies. The digital files are encoded on plastic disks that make small, lightweight, durable packages, which offer far more advanced capabilities than the older VHS tapes. (Of course, now we have YouTube, so scroll to bottom for online video)
THIRD: We tried making other movies, but the scenes with bicycling were more visually interesting. (This part is where it gets a little more complicated. One member of our organization, Robert Weber, has been making movies since he was a teenager. He started by using an old 16mm film camera. He learned to splice the film together and make movies at a young age. He has shot footage for television programs, done promotionals, commercials and been involved with live TV broadcasts. He has produced programs for government agencies and businesses, but has never totally created a completely new independent movie, let alone a series. Once the DVD technology became accessible, he decided this was the right time to get going.)
We started out on a completely different program idea. The original concept was a travel - adventure to various locations around the world. There was mountain climbing, skiing, and other activities, but when the preliminary edits were done, the bicycle footage just stood out from all the rest. At that point, the decision was made to concentrate on cycling and continue with travel to other interesting places. Then, a question arose about where to begin and where to end. That was a tough choice.
After sorting through various alternatives, the decision was made to follow the life of George Washington because his travels were so well documented and there were many bicycle trails that would follow his journeys. Perhaps it might all fit into one movie. That concept was soon abandoned shortly after the research had only begun because Washington traveled so extensively. Almost anywhere you go in the original thirteen colonies, there is some reference to George Washington and the date he arrived at certain locations. There actually used to be many signs along highways stating, "George Washington slept here." These were quite common in the 1950s, and it was almost like an endorsement that people should expect good food and service at these establishments.
The next ingredient in the DVD movie decision was the huge number of reenactments that take place all around the country. People love to participate in these and very often, the events have more reenactors than spectators. This seemed like an tremendous opportunity. People provide living history demonstrations adjacent to the trails followed by famous historical figures. Combining the two in a movie series should be easy. That assumption has also proved to be not entirely correct. While it is probably easier to make movies now than it has ever been before, it is still quite a challenge.
Making a movie about riding a bicycle is not new. There was a major Hollywood release called, "Breaking Away," which was very popular in the 1970s. The Tour de France has been shown on television and there is usually a good audience for it, as well as for the "Ironman" triahlon events. Robert Weber also watched a cycling video made in Colorado about a family on an adventure, but that particular program taught him more about what NOT to do. It began with very beautiful scenery. There was a snow capped mountain in the background as they were riding in the beginning of the program and yet twenty minutes later, the riders were still looking at that same snow capped mountain. The point is that if people watch a movie, they only expect to see the highlights and not the whole entire ride.
In some cases, we do show a long continuous shot of simply cycling roads or trails and looking at scenery. That has worked very well in Barbados because there is so much different looking scenery and the colors are very rich. There are places in Zion National Park that have a constant flow of beautiful scenes with rich colors. Other places might have long stretches of boring landscape punctuated by interesting landmarks. Parts of Arizona come to mind in that category. Each separate location has something different to offer and this DVD series is really a new form of video to specialize in that. Because we use such a small camera to get the shots, we can go places not found in any other programs. Up until now, most cycling videos were shot from a motorcycle. We do not do that. We try to capture the pure feeling of the places we go strictly on bicycles. The history is often what has shaped the communities and the surroundings. That provides the basis for telling a story. If the whole movie were only based upon cycling from point A to point B, it would probably get pretty boring. That is why we have chosen the life of George Washington, as an example. In many cases we ride the very same trails that he once rode on a horse. His travels are extremely well documented. That has made it easy for us because there are bicycle trails that criss cross his journeys.
There are other less well documented travels by famous people in American history. We have begun to follow the trails of Hernando DeSoto, Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, and even the Wright Brothers. There is another very fascinating historical person who we constantly bump into when we travel up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States. He is the notorious pirate known as "Blackbeard." Following his trails has proved to be quite mysterious because of all the myths and legends surrounding him. We are still working on that particular story. His main hideout was in a small town off the Pamlico Sound in North Carolina. He ranged as far north as New Jersey and farther south into the Caribbean. There are other famous pirates, such as Jean Laffitte, who primarily worked the routes along the coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Laffitte is actually credited with helping the United States during the War of 1812, so the facts and legends about pirates should make quite an exceptional story.
The Revolutionary War is full of wonderful stories. Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all are well known for their travels to Philadelphia, but each of them has other stories which can be discovered from a bicycle. Each of them has contributed to some important part of history that is still in evidence today. We simply try to explain how these facts can be discovered through normal recreational activities like cycling. We do that by showing the landmarks and explaining the backgrounds regarding how these people were involved.
We can also follow the movements of military forces and visit the battlefields where important events took place. Many of these locations have bicycle trails established. Valley Forge is one such site that we visit in our Disk #4 of the series. Gettysburg is well known for the battle documentation available and the easy access for cyclists. At some point in the future, we might travel to Europe and follow the trails of World War I, World War II or perhaps study European history. We have also considered a cycling tour through Vietnam. We have not placed any limits on our travels. We just have to make sure we can tell a story through each of the rides.
There are people who go for very long bicycle rides. Some of them ride over 3000 miles across the United States. Some ride from Alaska to South America. Some ride across Asia, along the length of Africa, or across Australia. They have wonderful stories to tell and we would like to hear them and share them. That is another aspect of Bicycling Through History, which we intend to pursue. We simply had to start somewhere. We started close to home. This is the same advice we would give to anyone else who thinks they want to ride their bicycle to discover new things. The famous Chinese proverb goes that, "A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step." In our case, these journeys have begun when we get on our bicycles and start pedaling. That is how we started. The main difference is that we took along a video camera and now we share our rides via DVD.
On practically every ride we take, Vickie will say that she wished someone else were riding with us because they would probably enjoy it. On the other hand, when asked if she would like to participate in a group ride, Vickie always says, "No." That would add some level of complexity for us and it would place other limitations on what can be done. Getting these rides and historical facts on DVD is no small feat.
We are now considering whether to accept videos from other people to be included in the series. Good cameras are available. The tapes are not expensive, but the techniques to get the shots might be difficult to emulate. There are also dangers involved. We do not want to encourage anyone to take risks. We get enough criticism for not always wearing a helmet when we ride. That can be another issue for another information paper. This was supposed to be a short answer to an easy question. The next answer might turn out to be a whole lot longer. This is about as simple as the explanation can get for how we got started. It could go on and on.
The old saying is, "A picture is worth a thousand words. " So how much is a DVD worth ? . . . . . (In our situation, suggested retail price is $16.95 per DVD). That seems like a bargain considering what it would cost to go to all these different places. Now that travel costs more and security is a big concern, the cost of our DVDs is a small price to pay in order to share the experience. If someone wants to purchase the special "3 Pack for $39.95," then the cost comes down to less than $13.32 per DVD." That seems like even more of a bargain. People can purchase these DVDs online through Amazon.com , or perhaps find them at a local bicycle shop, video store or libraries. Just remember that if they do not have our DVDs on the shelf at your local video place - Ask for them !
Bicycling Through History is fun. Share it with friends.
This is what Bicycling Through History is all about.
Some of our online videos are OUT OF SEQUENCE. We will have to explain their significance LATER.
This is one of our favorite introductory rides - Washington, DC.
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American History from the perspective of a Casual Cyclist.